August 2009

Kleenex: An Inventory of Contemporary Music (Toronto)

Freida Abtan

[photo: sflaw]

A tip for a solid event in Toronto this week comes to us by way of Freida Abtan (pictured above).


Kleenex: An Inventory of Contemporary Ambient, Experimental, Beats, Mash-Makers and Performance

Wednesday Aug. 5th  at The Drake Underground
1150 Queen St W, Toronto
7-12pm $4 (at the door), (416) 531-5042

Featuring: Joda Clement, Freida Abtan, TouchBoy, Spain's Most Extravagant Mexican, Ken Farrell & Dara Alter.

Bonus: The Drake will be filled with "ambient kleenex forms" in response to the music throughout the night.   

More details available at the Drake Underground page for the event. 



Crisis Modes: Protocols + Future Ecologies Workshop (NYC)

Crisis Modes - Protocols + Future Ecologies

From Michael Chen and Jason Lee, authors of the excellent Cognitive Maps and Database Urbanisms in Vague Terrain 13: citySCENE:

"Crisis Modes is a one-week intensive design workshop to be held in New York City from August 17-21. The workshop will take place in a studio setting and will be devoted to exploring relational design strategies and digital design methodologies for speculative infrastructures. New York City, with its breadth of ecological and urban complexity and in particular its urbanizing industrialized waterways, will be the primary context explored.

The aim of the workshop will be to empower designers to negotiate the complex and data-rich environments that are available through professional mapping and information systems and to develop speculative design proposals through the use of computational techniques and methodologies. Participants will develop design interventions that address emerging ecological crises and opportunities found in New York ecologies of the present and near-future.

The format of the workshop will include daily intensive workshop sessions focusing primarily on Grasshopper, Rhino’s parametric design plug-in, and evening lectures and presentations from practitioners and experts in the fields of sustainability and computational design. The workshop will cover strategic workflows for data set analysis and mapping, complex rule-based geometries, as well as techniques for digital fabrication."

The instructors of the workshop are Michael Chen + Jason Lee [Crisis Fronts] & Ronnie Parsons + Gil Akos [Studio Mode| modeLab]."

For more info and to register please visit this link.


 Percussion Lab - screencapture   Two forward-thinking music sites have figured rather prominently into my listening habits of late and I thought I'd pass along the links.
  • Percussion Lab is a NYC-based collective of artists and musicians who (since 2002) have been curating a collection of live sets and performances from "their favorite artists, DJs and record labels." The project evolved out of a WKVR radio show and just relaunched with a slick new site design (pictured above). A quick scan of their current content yields a live set by Ezekiel Honig from Mutek 2009 and Kode 9's infamous Sonar 2007 mix.
  • promises to "saturate your ears with delectable details" and the fledgling net radio station covers all manner of errata infused soundscapes - dubstep, breaks, techno and more experimental fare. 

Tiny Sketch - 200 Character Processing Competition

Jim Bumgardner - Processing

[Jim Bumgardner / Tiny Rose (left) and Logic plaids (right)]

Rhizome & OpenProcessing  are hosting a savvy microcompetition as an "open challenge" to programmers and designers to strut their stuff to make the "most creative work possible" with processing with a 200 character limit. Short and sweet. 

The strongest entry will be determined by an open vote and announced after voting closes on Sunday, September 20th - with the winner collecting $200 for their efforts. The sketches will also be submitted in a collection page on the Rhizome Artbase

Full contest details are available on the competition microsite/gallery

Twisted Meets Atmospheric (Montreal)

Twisted Meets Atmospheric - Montreal

Solid show taking place in Montreal on Friday:

NAW (Noise Factory Records / pertin-nce / pawn shop / Phoniq)
Freida Abtan (United Dairies / Jnana Records)
Turner of Wheels (Panospria)
Jade Malek (vague records)

August 21st, 9 pm
le Cagibi, 5490 St-Laurent, Montreal


Vague Terrain Summer/Fall News

It has been quite a while since we've provided any kind of window into what is going on at Vague Terrain HQ - this missive is quite overdue. First off, the response to Vague Terrain 14: Biomorph as great and we'd like to thank Paul Prudence for getting us back in touch with our software art roots. We are also pleased to announce that the march towards organizing our archives is proceeding slowly but surely - we'll be posting Vague Terrain 06: Locative (guest curated by David McCallum) over the next few weeks. We also have plans for a site-wide overhaul of our audio and video players as soon as time permits.

The next two issues of Vague Terrain will be guest curated by Kim Cascone and Joshua Noble. The Cascone issue will tie in with the tenth anniversary of .microsound and Noble will be framing a yet-to-be-finalized facet of "aesthetic computation".

Thanks for your continued support!

Greg J. Smith and Neil Wiernik

fear of a wet planet: rhythm I


We should linger here for a long while on rhythm: it is nothing other than the time of time, the vibration of time itself in the stroke of a present that presents it by separating it from itself, freeing it from its simple stanza to make it into scansion (rise, raising of the foot that beats) and cadence (fall, passage into the pause). Thus, rhythm separates the succession of the linearity of the sequence or length of time: it bends time to give it to time itself, and it is in this way that it folds and unfolds a “self.” (Nancy, Listening 17)

What might philosophy do with rhythm? There are three cardinal points I can think of in regards to rhythm: (1) the chapter on the Refrain in A Thousand Plateaus; (2) Lefebvre’s posthumously published work on Rhythmanalysis; and Nancy’s work on rhythm in Listening. There are, of course, other writings on the topic, but these three examples are cardinal points as they mark out different approaches. In this post I’ll tackle something of D&G.

For D&G, the rhythm is thought as the refrain (from Proust), and thought in its relation to various ~scapes (np. 349), by which I mean at the most general level, the relationship of belonging, beginning with the refrain of the songbird that demarcates territory (territorial refrains), to the refrain of the here-and-there, the call and response (milieu refrains), to refrains of the people (folk and popular, but also military and fascistic volk), to geospheric refrains, or long durée rhythms of the Earth and Universe that are near imperceptible to human phenomenology (geologic time). In each case, the analysis considers the limits in which the refrain can become coded and/or overcoded (from refrains that free to refrains that enclose, from the rhythm of flight/fight, the popular song that frees the mind, to the military march). Second, the refrain is always thought in reference to a sphere (the territory, the Earth, celestial bodies). The great shift of historical rhythm (which D&G see as a history of perception itself – 347) occurs when the romantic refrain that expresses X, whether that be the subject, people or territory (D&G will call these “natal refrains, refrains of the territory… [and] folk and popular refrains (347)), or likewise, refrains that are call-and-response (”milieu refrains” (347)), are superseded by the ‘cosmic refrain’ that is a ‘material of capture’ (342). In this contemporary and cosmic refrain, the ‘mechanosphere’ of the modern age, ‘the age of the cosmic’ – which is about 1978 or so I guess – “the essential thing is no longer forms and matters, or themes, but forces, densities, intensities” (343). Here the refrain is also played to ulterior themes in D&G’s work, insofar as the refrain becomes material-molecular, rather than expressly temporal. The refrain not surprisingly plays out among D&G’s quasi-dialectic of territorialization, deterritorialization & reterritorialization that also confirms modernist sonic-aesthetics:

It seems that when sound deterritorializes, it becomes more and more refined; it becomes specialized and autonomous. (347)

Where temporality is mentioned, the refrain is given as its a priori; “The refrain fabricates time (du temps)” (349). And specifically: “Here, Time is not an a priori form; rather, the refrain is the a priori form of time, which in each case fabricates different times [temps – meters, tempos]” (349). Which seems to imply that territorial relations are a priori (at least “here”) to temporal.

D&G are perhaps the first thinkers of philosophic desire to link the modern refrain with the synthesizer (343), insofar as the synthesizer is the assemblage – the materiality, though tempting to say the materialization, which would perhaps reveal more of an expressionist characteristic of this thought than this point concerning post-expressionism would strictly admit – of the cosmic’s abstract machine of the refrain. Here, Cage and La Monte Young are mentioned (344), insofar as experimental electronic music is the express vehicle of refrains that trade in densities, forces and affect, by way of the molecularization of sound. This particular, modernist reading of the refrain that favours white experimental electronic music allowed these passages to be sampled as theoretical soundbytes for experimental electronic labels wishing to align their sonic aesthetic and work with D&G’s philosophy. Case in point is the Mille Plateaux record label (1993-2004) which, besides its name (and parent & sub-labels such as Force Inc., Ritornelle, and so on) sampled D&G for its press releases, as well as releasing “In Memoriam Gilles Deleuze,” a compilation album dedicated to Deleuze upon his passing. (See Simon Reynold’s article, ‘low end theory‘, published in WIRE #146, 04/1996). Achim Szepanski, label head of MP, has this interesting quote in the Reynold’s article when discussing the 1991 ‘ardcore techno / breakbeat fad of “squeaky voices” (a trend that annoyed most aesthetes and critics alike):

Maybe it was just our peculiar warped interpretation, but the sped-up vocals sounded like a serious attempt to deconstruct some of the ideologies of pop music. One dimension to this was using voices like instruments or noise, destroying the pop ideology that says that the voice is the expression of the human subject. (Achim Szepankski, quoted in Reynolds’ “low end theory“)

Electronic sound destroys the representative voice of the subject. The “track” is no song; it does not speak, signify, nor represent. Ample demonstration and explication of the sonic deconstruction of the subject’s voice is to be found in Kodwo Eshun’s More Brilliant Than The Sun, for example when taking on the “Sampladelia of the Breakbeat,” and in reference to Ultramagnetic MCs, Eshun writes that:

The human organism is flying apart. The Song is in ruins. Sampling has cracked the language into phonemes. It breaks the morpheme into rhythmolecules. (03[025])

Eshun’s relation to D&G is complex, insofar as he utilizes several of their concepts – notable re/de/territorialization – while infusing them with the rhythm – intergalactic, interstellar, Afrofuturist – the refrain denies. The cosmic refrain frees sound from territory by way of sonic molecularization (and the assemblage of the synthesizer), and is exemplified in the beatless, static soundwave compositions of La Monte Young and random chance operations of John Cage. Where is Afrosonic rhythm, rhythm in general circa 1979, say the rhythm of disco, jazz, Sun Ra, Muddy Waters or even The Rolling Stones? Or again: Kraftwerk? Aesthetic exemplification aside, the question remains why D&G never discuss rhythm that engages the body – dance music – given their philosophical preoccupation with precisely this point, the materiality and embodiment of perception as “pop philosophy,” or what Eshun aptly sums up when he writes that “Rhythm is a biotechnology” (01[007]). Eshun could be responding to – and characterizing – Deleuze in the following:

Traditionally, the music of the future is always beatless. To be futuristic is to jettison rhythm. The beat is the ballast which prevents escape velocity, which stops music breaking beyond the event horizon. The music of the future is weightless, transcendent, neatly converging with online disembodiment. Holst’s Planet Suite as used in Kubrick’s 2001, Eno’s Apollo soundtrack, Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack: all these are good records – but sonically speaking, they’re as futuristic as the Titanic, nothing but updated examples of an 18th C sublime. (05[067])

To sample once again the Zizek soundbyte that is in the air: “precisely.” And it is again worth noting white futurism’s attachment to celestial bodies in the case of Holst, the geospheric weightdown of weightless music to some kind of terra firma. Everything Eshun will explore insofar as Afrofuturist sonic fiction – the acceleration of rhythm as the biotechnology of the beat – though it can be thought in the matrix of D&G, simply echoes and bleeds beyonds the concept of the refrain, insofar as the refrain remains tied to a territory, and in its molecularization, forgets the body. Interstellar sound can’t be grounded in this fashion though it can be sensed by way of fear, dread, dance, movement, headsonics, and the sonic deterritorialization of the soul-subject-body. Even as the Detroit techno of Underground Resistance proceeds by way of enlarging its territorial communication – Nation 2 Nation, Galaxy 2 Galaxy, Universe 2 Universe, as three 12″s claim their succession in the World Power Alliance – it is by way of exploding the territory with tones. Sun Ra is put to use at 130BPM. And as Eshun notes, rhythmic techno also detonates the representational grounding of hiphop:

UR’s World Power Alliance expands on Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, replacing planetary nationalism with a sonic globalism. (07[122])

Or to resample by way of “Electronic Secession:”

Techno secedes from the ruthlessly patrolled hoods of Trad HipHop. HipHop updates blaxploitation’s territories; it represents the street. By opting out of this logic of representation, Techno disappears itself from the street, the ghetto and the hood. Drexicya doesn’t represent Detroit the way Mobb Deep insist they represent Staten Island. (07[102])

Without representation, techno is free to become autonomous to the body itself in its sonic fictions of dance/dreaming and interstellar travel of the intellect via soundwaves. But with this imaginary, the loss of terra firma also means that techno does not represent Detroit, meaning that something of techno’s possible impact to the hierarchy of the popular music industry is lost. Such is the choice taken (though evidently a great influence was felt in the early ’90s worldwide, and remains in Europe, of electron sound; North America has reterritorialized upon the pop subject’s authenticity, whether by way of hiphop, r’n'b or pop proper, even insofar as this authenticity is the most plastic of fictions, sung & strut).

Techno’s globalism goes underwater with Drexicya (the aquatic AfroMers, descendants of those souls sent overboard during the Middle Passage of the Black Atlantic) and interstellar with X-102 (The Rings of Saturn). The beat syncopation of rhythm adds an element missing to D&G’s static wave-molecular modernism, for

Techno becomes an immersion in insurrection, music to riot with” (07[118]).

The utility of dance music is its ability to form and froth a body, to lather it up into a furious funk, to reconnect the mind to a whirling movement, to the dervish, to becoming-lost as a way to riot.

Originally published on Fugitive Philosophy a blog "featuring the latest in dissertation dissections & protozoan concepts, with a twist toward Autonomia, philosophy of technology, and Afrofuturism" authored by Tobias c. van Veen. Call for Submissions (Regina) Logo is a concert series and audio collective based in Regina, SK that engages with sound as an artistic medium, with a focus on uniting various artistic, geographical and cultural communities through sound-work.  In partnership with Tracy Hamon, a poet and writer from Regina, SK we are planning a collaborative concert that reacts against perceptions of post-post modernism by reaching back to modernist roots for inspiration.

Whether it’s Symbolist, Impressionist, or Gertrude Stein’s hermetic word portraits, consider the exchange as an opportunity to emphasize your work. We are seeking submissions that engage modernism as an integral trend of thought that affirms our power to create. The open call accepts:

  • pre-recorded material
  • performance
  • sound/slam/text based poetry
  • or any combinations thereof
  • no more than 15 minutes of material/work or 15 pages of text

This event will occur in Regina, SK on Nov. 7, 2009 as a part of season two of’s ongoing event programming. Honorariums will be paid, but we cannot support artist travel fees at this time. Submissions must be received by Sept. 25, 2009.

Please Include:

  • A short description of how the work will be performed - including diagrams or explanations of speaker arrays if applicable
  • A 50 word max. program note on the work submitted
  • A 50 word bio
  • A 3 page max cv complete with contact information and mailing address

Formats Accepted:

  • CD or DVD-based works and support material
  • Works must not run longer than 15 minutes
  • accepts any audio from 16bit 44.1 kHz to 24bit 96kHz, also from mono to eight track files

Please send submissions to: - "Modernism"
2724 Sinton Ave.
Regina, SK
S4S 1K1